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When Anine Bing decided to turn her successful fashion blog and social media presence into a brand, Annika Meller was there. In the early days of the influencer’s fashion brand, Meller helped Bing with everything from stuffing boxes to fulfilling orders, as they worked to build the company from the ground-up.

“In the beginning, we did absolutely everything,” said Meller. “We answered customer emails, we packed orders and, obviously, we worked on strategy. I think Anine saw in me that I could fill a lot of different roles, and we’ve been a fantastic team from the start.”

In the years that followed, Anine Bing continued to grow its following and its business. The brand now has 10 stores, with four more on the way, and is experimenting with social and traditional marketing. The hope is that, one day, the brand will be everywhere its customers are.

In this week’s episode of The Glossy Podcast, Hilary Milnes sits down with Annika Meller, COO and co-founder of Anine Bing, to discuss what it was like to build a brand on Instagram in 2012, why paid promotions can be a slippery slope and why investing in more traditional marketing channels like billboards and magazines makes sense. Edited highlights are below.

Building a brand in the early days of Instagram
“A little bit about Anine’s background: She was an influencer within the social media space from the early 2000s. She had built this fantastic community over the years and had a blog that was quite famous in Scandinavia, and she could see that these women really looked to her for style advice. So she took her unique street style and turned it into this brand. Right from the get-go, we were a community-led brand, and we used social media, specifically Instagram, to launch the brand and spread the awareness of the line. This was in 2012, and I would say it was right around that time that Instagram started to become popular, so we had great timing in that regard. We started to use Instagram to interact with our customers and get customer feedback right on our phones daily. We can see what the customer really likes, and that helps to give us direction.”

Organic vs. paid promotion
“[The balance between organic and paid promotion is] quite complex. I would say we are truly an organic brand, and that’s our major focus. We’re testing the waters with paid marketing and acquisition, but we try to be careful with that. It’s a slippery slope, as pretty much everyone knows. But Instagram is working really well for us, both with organic and some paid. We also have an ambassador program with women who we feel are very much on brand and women who are genuinely our customers. We haven’t paid any influencer ever, but we do send them product. What we’ve seen over the years is that it’s not about how many followers they have; it’s about the engagement of their audience. So we’re trying to pick women who represent our customer, and our customers range from 25 to 60 [years old]. We want to make sure we have a good mix of women we bring into this ambassador program.”

Creating an omnichannel marketing experience
“We’re testing digital marketing, and we also want to put more focus on brand marketing. And testing out a few more traditional marketing campaigns is something we’re looking to do. We haven’t exactly nailed down what it’s going to look like, but it could be, for instance, that we open a new store in a new city, and we do billboards and a catalog, and simultaneously go after that customer with digital marketing and our organic social presence. Basically, we want to be doing a lot of things at the same time. Our customer, she roams freely, and we want to make sure that wherever she is interacting with the brand, we want to be there. Customer experience is everything, and that goes for marketing, to some degree. We want to make sure that if she gets something in her mailbox, that it’s actually something she wants to read, whether it’s a catalog or a newsletter. It’s important to do a bit of everything.”